Tag: Suns Lakers Game 3

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns: Channing Frye gives advice to basketball scribes

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cfrye.jpgOf all the words spent discussing, analyzing, explaining, and picking apart Lakers-Suns, a good number of them have concerned Channing Frye. The Suns’ bench on the whole has had their moments, but Frye is the one reserve that has yet to really contribute with his most valuable skill: shooting. Channing has made just one of his 20 shot attempts in this series, and has averaged just 1.3 points in 15.4 minutes per game.

So naturally, after seeing how much of a positive influence Frye’s three-point shooting can be on the Suns’ offense in the regular season and the two prior playoff series, fans and writers have been a bit critical of Channing’s performance over the last three games. It’s hard to shield him from any of it; 1-for-20 is impressively awful, especially considering the Lakers’ blatant disregard of the “threat” of Frye’s shooting on the pick-and-roll. It’s gotten to the point where L.A.’s defenders often give Channing plenty of room to fire, and he still can’t connect.

Apparently, Channing has had enough of it. Here’s a quote from Frye via Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

“You know what guys, to be honest I’m kind of disappointed,” Frye
said. “First you said we couldn’t beat them and now you’re talking
about a lot of negativity. I think we need to look at how well Robin
[Lopez] is playing, how well Amar’e [Stoudemire] is playing. My baskets
– yeah, they would’ve helped. Yeah, I haven’t been shooting very well.
But I feel like I’m doing other things better, helping out defensively
and getting as many boards as I can. So for you guys to talk about me
shooting, that’s kind of – there’s better stories to write about than
me shooting.”

Berger’s response was the perfect one: “With all due respect, that’s for me to decide. Your job is to make shots.” Zing!

Frye clearly underestimates the consumption rate of available NBA content in print and online, especially during the NBA playoffs. Of course people are writing on Amar’e’s huge Game 3 performance or Robin Lopez’s fantastic play. Those angles are covered, covered, and covered again. That may provide an interesting morsel, but it doesn’t give the whole story of Game 3 or any other, and that’s where Frye comes in.

Every player making a significant impact on the game deserves this kind of treatment, and throwing up 19 errant shots out of 20 certainly qualifies. His justifications also come off as a bit defensive, especially when considering that his rebounding really hasn’t been above average and his defense far from notable. I’m sure Frye is trying to make his mark on this series, he’s just not doing it. That’s the story.

This isn’t an issue of effort, but one of execution. A hot shooter has gone deathly cold, and Phoenix’s number of productive bench players has dropped from five to four. 

You're going to need more than a broken nose to stop Steve Nash


Nash_Nose.jpgSteve Nash has a broken nose.

Officially, he has “a minimally displaced nasal fracture with displaced cartilage,” as Yahoo’s Mark Spears tweeted. That is still a fancy way of saying he has a broken nose.

He will have to have a minor procedure to correct it, but he is not going to miss any game time.

Nash was in a pretty light mood after the game when talking about it.

I don’t think I broke it, I think I rearranged it,” Nash said in a televised interview on NBATV.com.

The injury happened when Derek Fisher inadvertently hit Nash in the nose with his head while reaching in to steal the ball late in the game. Fisher was called for a foul on the play.

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns: Game 3 was a nice win for Phoenix, but can they do it again?


One of the things that made the second round of this year’s playoffs so bizarre was the prevalence of sweeps. It’s incredibly difficult for any NBA team to sweep another regardless of talent, because beating the same opponent four times in a row requires such an incredible level of focus and consistency. It just doesn’t happen all that often, and the losing team typically wins a game or two to delay the outcome even it it seems inevitable.

I wouldn’t say that a Laker win in the Western Conference Finals is inevitable, but one can’t help but wonder if last night’s Suns’ victory was a temporary diversion rather than real resistance. Phoenix won the game while playing solid — but not dominant — basketball, and is that really good enough to compete with this particular Lakers team?

It’s a complicated question, admittedly, and at its core, it begs us to analyze the sustainability of the Suns’ efforts on both ends of the court.

Offensively, one could actually argue that Phoenix survived (and thrived) in spite of two rather notable obstructions: the Suns shot poorly from three as a team and the usually solid bench was nowhere to be found. The reserves (including sharpshooters Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, and Goran Dragic) went 0-fer in 11 attempts from long range, but the starters didn’t really offer much long-range support, either. Jason Richardson made four of the team’s five attempts, which means that the rest of the starters (or really, Steve Nash and Grant Hill) weren’t doing all that much to balance the court.

On this night, it was probably for the best. The Suns fed Amar’e Stoudemire over and over, and he produced. Not only did Amar’e put up 22 field goal attempts, but he got to the line 18 times, and the Suns as a team shot 42 free throw attempts. Phoenix can survive a rainy day with that kind of scoring coming from the free throw line, but any free throw total that high will be met with some skepticism. That said, while Game 3 featured the same questionable calls that can be found in just about any NBA contest, this result was not entirely without precedent.

In Game 2, the Suns shot 32 free throws to the Lakers’ 22. The difference in attempts between the teams in that game may not have been as profound as the Game 3 differential, but the pace was notably higher in Game 3 (98 possessions to 92 in Game 2), and both Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash were far more assertive within the Phoenix offense on Sunday night. They combined for 13 attempts in Game 2 and 25 attempts in Game 3, which is more than enough to compensate for the generous bump of the team totals.

I wouldn’t say anyone should expect the Suns to shoot 42 free throws again in this series, but if Stoudemire, Nash, and the Suns remain aggressive on offense, they can still boast a considerable free throw advantage against the Lakers.

The bench will bounce back, the three-point shooting will no doubt return, and the total free throw attempts will drop slightly but could still be an advantage for Phoenix. All in all, there’s no reason to think the Suns can’t be even better offensively, which is good news for an already confident Phoenix team playing at home in Game 4.

On defense…well, that’s where the news isn’t quite so good. From the second quarter onward, the Suns relied on a zone defense that produced some impressive results. The Suns’ Game 3 fortunes turned on a time, with the zone sparking a 15-2 run going into halftime that gave Phoenix a seven-point lead. It was fun to watch the Suns’ defenders not only active and involved, but making the right rotations to prevent exploitations of the zone. Brilliant, brilliant move by Alvin Gentry.

Each defensive scheme has its own weaknesses though, and the zone is certainly no exception. The zone was so problematic for the Lakers not because it was perfectly executed (although the Suns certainly did a stellar job relative to their usual man-to-man defense, which has characteristically featured some poor rotations), but precisely because it was a zone. They settled for too many contested threes, didn’t properly utilize one of the best high post centers in the game in Pau Gasol, and didn’t employ the right kind of ball and player movement.

The Laker offense didn’t make any significant adjustments against the zone, and thus their usual movement was stifled. Kudos to L.A. for not stopping the ball, but they need to replace their usual cuts and slashes with moves more effective against the zone: baseline movement, overloading a player’s zone, etc. With NBA versatility, size, and speed at a coach’s disposal, it’s really only a matter of time before any NBA team cracks the zone, much less one with this much talent from coach down. Phil Jackson and his staff will work with the Lakers and hit the film room hard to show exactly how to attack the Suns’ zone D, and unfortunately for Phoenix, it’s that simple.

Andrew Bynum may not be the best counter to the zone, but any lineup featuring Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and Lamar Odom is more than capable of getting easy shots against it. That’s not meant to be a slight against Phoenix’s defense in Game 3, which was much improved, but rather as a general statement concerning the limitations of the scheme. The zone can be incredibly effective over the course of a single game, but if the Suns are relying on it to win them the series (as they may be forced to, considering how ineffective their man defense has been), they’re in trouble.

That makes Phoenix’s Game 3 win a bit tough to replicate. Phoenix’s offensive potency has never really been in question in this series, but the Suns’ ability (or inability) to defend the versatile and efficient Laker offense sits in the spotlight during every game. That’s where these games (and this series) need be won, and unfortunately, the Phoenix zone is vulnerable to the law of diminishing returns; the more the Suns use the zone, the less effective it will be.

The key for Phoenix will be maintaining the same emphasis on defensive rotations in their usual defensive sets that they seem to exhibit in the zone, as the decreasing effectiveness of the zone will ultimately force the Suns to revert to man-to-man defense. If Phoenix can be even moderately successful without the zone, their offense will give them a shot to win Game 4 and perhaps a few more. If not, Game 3 was merely artificial resistance in a series that could be over sooner rather than later.

NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 3: The Phoenix starters came up big on a rare off-night for the heralded reserves


stoudemire.pngThe Suns’ reserves have been the heart and soul of Phoenix’s extended playoff run. Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, and Louis Amundson have each had their moment in the spotlight, with their collective shooting, energy, savvy, and synergy making all the difference for the Suns in these playoffs.

That wasn’t exactly the case in Game 3. Those same five reserves combined for just 15 points on a horribly ineffective 3-for-21 from the field, and they missed each of their 11 total attempts from three-point range. The spark that made the second and fourth quarters so enjoyable for Suns fans this postseason was extinguished for Game 3, which would seem to be a recipe for disaster given the constitution of this series thus far. Phoenix was having trouble matching L.A.’s offensive output even with some serious help from the bench. Take away that crutch, and the Suns’ return to the US Airways Center would seem destined to end in failure.

That wasn’t exactly the case, either. The Suns’ starters stepped up in a big way, with Amar’e Stoudemire (42 points on 22 shots, 11 rebounds) not just returning to form, but evolving into something of a monster. He still won’t be making the All-Defensive team anytime soon, but Stoudemire played with more focus on the fairer end of the court while completely dominating the offensive end.

Steve Nash (17 points, 15 assists, just one turnover) and Amar’e looked far more comfortable operating in the pick-and-roll than in the two games prior, which made a world of difference for the Western Conference Finals underdogs. Part of that is Nash having the benefit of better screens, but the improved timing and accuracy of his passes and Stoudemire’s newfound assertiveness were crucial to the slight refocusing of the Phoenix offense.

The Suns’ weren’t exactly struggling on the offensive end in this series prior to Sunday night (they scored at a rate of 116.3 and 116.7 points per 100 possessions in Games 1 and 2 respectively), but Game 3 marked Amar’e’s first breakout performance in the series and a nice uptick in team-wide offensive efficiency (120.4 points per 100 possessions).

The subs clearly weren’t the source of that offensive improvement, meaning that on this night, the starters were the team’s rightful saviors. Jason Richardson finished with 19 points on 15 shots, including four threes made in seven attempts. Grant Hill only scored five points, but had nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Robin Lopez very nearly stole the show by dropping 20 points on eight of his 10 attempts, but his ability to finish around the rim was a bit dwarfed by Amar’e’s fantastic outing.

This isn’t to neglect the Suns’ improved defense in Game 3, which our own Kurt Helin already addressed in this space. The adjustment from man-to-man coverage to a zone look did exactly what Phoenix needed it to: bogged down L.A.’s offense just enough to secure a win. The Suns honestly don’t need to play terrific defense in order to win games in this series, but they do have to play some defense. The Suns need to work as hard, rotate as quickly, and contest as much as they did in Game 3 if they’re going to take another game in this series, but the starters’ ability to execute in the zone does offer a glimmer of hope.

Goran Dragic may have completely blitzed the Spurs in the second round and Jared Dudley’s hustle has justly received praise throughout the playoffs, but Game 3 serves as a much-needed reminder that the Suns’ starters are the bread-winners. Replacing the useless Jarron Collins with Robin Lopez makes that even more apparent, and though the boost from the reserve unit has been welcome throughout the season, the production of Phoenix’s starting five has always been the foundation for the Suns’ success. Complementary players are nice additions to any team, but at the end of the day they’re still just complementary players.

Against elite competition (and the Lakers are just that), the Suns’ starters will have to perform like they did in Game 3; less as a collection of the team’s most talented players, and more like the cohesive whole they’re capable of being.  

Guess which Laker started talking about the NBA Finals already? Go on, guess.


If you guessed Andrew Bynum, you’re a winner!

On the one hand, Bynum’s completely right to start talking about a Lakers-Celtics Finals. The Lakers easily dispatched the Suns in Games 1 and 2, and the Celtics have taken the Magic out the back door and thrown them in the gutter. So stating the obvious, that the two teams are going to meet isn’t outrageous in any sense.

What it is, however, is a dangerous piece of bulletin board material for the Phoenix Suns.

Bynum told reporters that “it’s going to be amazing to play against those guys again, especially
having lost” when asked about playing the more physical Celtics.

And he wasn’t done.

“We’re going to have a lot of fuel, a lot of ammo to go at those guys,”
Bynum said. “They’re definitely a great team, they got great veterans on
their squad and we know that. So we’re already getting prepared. The
first step is closing out Game 3 and after that, we’ll be focusing on
Boston, looking at them play, watching how they’re playing Orlando and
just trying to pick up as much as we can.”

So yeah. That’s, uh… a big flip of the bird to the karmic Gods. Luckily, Bynum plays for the Lakers, the Gods’ favorite fleet, so there will be no repercussions. But Bynum would do well to remember that the Suns came back from 3-1 to beat the Lakers a few years ago. That was a much worse Lakers team (and arguably a much better Suns team), but you also don’t want to top that by somehow losing a series after going up 3-0.

It’s good to be the Kings of the NBA. You can back up your talk, as Bynum and company will likely do tonight versus the Suns.